Himouto! Umaru-chan Complete Season Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs Blu-ray/4 Discs DVD (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running Time: 300 Minutes Approx.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover. In terms of spotting otaku this is especially true, as even the most respectable looking people could secretly spend their free time watching anime, collecting figures and playing video games.
Case in point: Umaru Doma – a popular, earnest hardworking, intelligent, sporty schoolgirl blessed with good looks and a modest, amiable demeanour, she is the dream of every male and the envy of every female. But as soon as Umaru gets home, she turns into a demonic, self-centred, demanding layabout whose life is dominated by video games anime, manga and cola!
Spare a thought for her older office worker brother Taihei, her beleaguered guardian who comes home every night exhausted from work only to play slave to the selfish, petty demands of the idle and spoiled Umaru. Of course he does it out of love, but don’t be fooled into thinking Taihei is a total push over, he’ll tell Umaru to pull her finger out when he has to.
With such a provocative central premise we are lucky that Himouto! Umaru-chan is a comedy otherwise we’d have angry otaku kicking off about the insensitive portrayal of their tribe. One would hope nobody would be that touchy about an anime but stranger things have happened, especially in Japan.
As it stands Umaru’s home persona does epitomise the worst side of the middle class modern day teen, wanting everything but giving nothing in return, fuelled by idle dreams born out commercial and materialistic desires until the next fad comes along. It needs to be established straight away that for all the comic folly that ensures, otaku Umaru is not a particularly likeable character at all.
The conceit of this series is how Umaru literally turns into a different character, her otaku form being a cheeky faced chibified version of her public self, bedecked in an orange hamster hoodie. Perhaps not so apparent is that this physical transformation is actually a genuine occurrence and not just a visual denotation for the audience, as we discover later on.
In other words, otaku Umaru is annoyingly adorable, allowing for what is essentially a one-note joke to play out across 12 episodes, getting more mileage out of it than should be humanly possible. Originally a manga by Sankaku Head, the title is a portmanteau of imouto, meaning little sister, and himono, which actually means dried fish but is also a slang term for a woman who has a “public face” (make-up, smart clothes, etc) and a “private face” (no-make-up, baggy clothes, etc).
With no discernible overarching plot to be found, the main theme is basically a battle of wills between Umaru and Taihei, usually won by default by Umaru. However, along the way there are glimmers of hope that the effort and sacrifices Taihei does make are in fact recognised and appreciated by his bratty younger sister, usually at the expense of Taihei’s health and/or sanity.
Separating Umaru from other otaku is that she can leave the house when she wants to, usually in modest attire and a cap, and indulges in her activities like everyone else, racking up top scores at the local arcade under the name UMR. But when Umaru is about to caught out by school rival Sylphynford Tachibana, a simple Lone Ranger-esque mask is apparently enough to hide her true identity.
As mentioned earlier, in her chibi form, Umaru is also unrecognisable to people aside from Taihei. When shy schoolmate Kirie Motoba, who admires Umaru, shows up at her flat, she thinks chibi Umaru is Umaru’s younger sister and, adopting the name Komaru, this deception is maintained throughout. The only person to see Umaru at home in her normal form is best friend Nana Ebina, a nervy, busty (natch) girl who has a crush on Taihei.
The comedy, as you might expect, is rather broad when based around Umaru’s manipulation of Taihei’s good nature and regular attempts to avoid exerting any effort beyond operating a games controller or turning the pages of a manga book. Visually it is down to the effect of Umaru’s chibi form to elicit the big laughs, through gravity defying leaps across the room or acts of deviousness in getting what she wants.
Serving as something of a redeeming factor, Umaru isn’t totally without some sympathy and showing signs of humanity towards Taihei, doing the shopping when he is sick and as mentioned earlier, can leave the house, but it really isn’t difficult to want Taihei to lose his cool and tear Umaru a new one for being so lazy and dependant on him for the slightest thing.
However we are left with a very divisive and polarising lead character who possibly sets a new precedent in being both the main attraction of this series and the very reason people will hate it. Taihei is not exactly milquetoast but is remarkably tolerant because he is generous like that and loves his sister. The other girls – all of whom are also little sisters to older brothers – represent favoured tropes but within the remit of this show add more to it than they should.
The animation is very loose and arguably for the best since we are supposed to suspend our disbelief towards Umaru’s miracle transformation. Even in her chibi form, Umaru rarely stays on model but that plays a huge part in her visual appeal and in drawing the laughs. If you have low tolerance towards insistent, querulous helium voices this may not be the show for you, provided you get past the ear-bleeding cacophony that is the opening theme song.
Viewed from the perspective of having to binge watch this show Himouto! Umaru-chan can be grating and repetitive, and its appeal wears thin by the end. In smaller doses however there is some genuinely funny otaku based comedy to be found here unless you are an older brother – like me – in which case, I feel your pain.
English Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Disc 1 (Blu-ray):
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Ending Animation
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
Home Video Release Commercials
Banquet Mondays “Daranama”
Japanese Commentaries w/English Subtitles
Limited Collector’s Edition
6 disc Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack
Rigid Collectors Box
Rating – ***
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